Posts tagged #vaccine

Why volunteer for a vaccine study?

Despite a legacy of scientific misconduct,and the usual complexities of conducting science across cultural differences, people in countries across the world volunteer for vaccine studies. 

Why? What motivates them? What are their fears?

Medical anthropologist Sienna Craig, I and our esteemed colleagues recently investigated. Check out our new paper, here in BMC Public Health.

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Posted on April 24, 2018 .

What's the best way to incentivize immunizations?

Vaccination saves lives.

Yet, resistance to immunization has become entrenched in some sociodemographic strata. Wealthy, educated liberals who care about organic food and "natural" products among them. 

Under-immunization of school-aged children in turn has led to outbreaks of measles and other transmissible infections, and contributes to  thousands of preventable influenza deaths in children each year. 

It's not enough to tout the benefits of vaccines, and then stand back with syringe in hand. Potential vaccines want to know vaccines are safe, and hear misconceptions about the low risks of vaccines. A seminal article by my Dartmouth colleague Brendan Nyhan showed that trying to disabuse vaccine skeptics of their misconception too may fail. 

Many states and countries are piloting various incentive programs designed to enhance immunization rates without engaging in potentially polarizing debate. From making immunizations mandatory to attend school to linking welfare benefits to vaccine receipt and even straight up cash incentives, lots of experiments are happening. Some of them even work.

Check out this great article by Susan Scutti of CNN and its accompanying video. I was proud to be quoted in it.

Vaccines just aren't as easy to discover as they used to be

Edward Jenner had it easy. Swab some cowpox in 1796, scratch the nastiness into the arm of a little kid (see below), and, PRESTO, instant immortality. 

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Vaccine success after vaccine success followed. Measles, mumps, rubella, polio... one after another global scourge quaked before the mighty pipettes of vaccine researchers.

I admit, the stalwarts who discovered those vaccines did more than transfer cow-pus to an un-consented minor research subject prior to doing a victory lap around the farm. Rather, they earned their laurels by working hard, and by being brilliant.

But ease wrought hubris, and as deadly viral menaces fell in succession, you could forgive one noted twentieth century sage, US Surgeon General William Stewart (pictured below), for saying, "It’s time to close the books on infectious diseases, declare the war against pestilence won, and shift national resources to such chronic problems as cancer and heart disease."

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Whoops!

These early triumphs gave way to a long, hard slog. Vaccines against HIV, tuberculosis, herpes, staphylococci, and hepatitis C, among others, have proven far more elusive. Amid small successes, and spectacular failures, we have discovered an uncomfortable fact: we don't really know what makes a good vaccine tick. 

This week I was glad to contribute both heat and noise to the mix. In an op-ed in the Health Affairs blog, I write about the dangers of dogmatism and the lessons learned on the road to a new HIV vaccine. And, we also published preclinical data this week on a new scalable version of our tuberculosis vaccine. Data from our Phase 1 trial of the same vaccine should come out soon!

Who knows if all this will lead to glory. Probably not! Either way, it's been a pleasure to try. 

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Posted on December 21, 2016 .

Is the new Ebola vaccine too good to be true?

Ebola is on the run: the number of cases dipped below ten a week recently, and a few days ago investigators announced in the prestigious journal The Lancet that a new Ebola vaccine was “100% effective.”

In response, global health authorities are starting to sound a little giddy. “We believe that the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine,” said Marie Paule Kieny, the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation (and a senior author on the paper). “It could be a game changer.”

She’s right: this is wonderful news, and a great testament to human ingenuity. A genetically engineered hybrid of the benign vesicular stomatitis virus and the Zaire strain of Ebola, together called rVSV-ZEBOV, was tested in a multi-site clinical trial conducted amid a massive aid response in Guinea, one of the poorest countries in Africa. The scientific and logistical acrobatics required to pull this off boggle the mind.

Yet, for three reasons, we cannot know if the vaccine really worked, or how well. 

To read more, check out my new post over at The Conversation.

Our Fight to Protect Hamid from TB

Hamid is a handsome Tanzanian man with a soft voice and impeccably-pressed clothes who works as a driver for our research program in Dar es Salaam. We talked about his family and his aspirations as we drove back and forth in Dar es Salaam, between meetings and social occasions. 

Hamid (not his real name) was more subdued than usual. His voice was raspy, his eyes bloodshot, and he coughed into his hand as we drove back and forth in his air-conditioned car.  

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on August 11, 2013 .